China sentences Tibetan entrepreneur and philanthropist to 18 years on ‘trumped-up charge’ 

An undated photo of Tenzin Choephel. Image: TCHRD

DHARAMSALA, 26 July: A Tibetan entrepreneur and philanthropist has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on the trumped-up charge of “inciting separatism” by the Chinese authorities, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a rights group based in Dharamsala reported on Monday.

Tenzin Choephel was sentenced on 24 May 2019 to 18 years’ fixed-term imprisonment and five years’ deprivation of political rights for allegedly committing various crimes including “inciting separatism”, “illegally sending intelligence overseas”, and “financing activities that endangered state security” in Tarchen Township in Sernye District, Nagchu City, in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham, TCHRD said citing a reliable source.

TCHRD has strongly condemned the “unjust sentencing of the Tibetan entrepreneur and philanthropist Choephel to 18 years in prison on the trumped-up charge of “inciting separatism”. 

The incident, TCHRD said, confirmed China’s “long-running campaign of political persecution under which prominent and influential Tibetans are targeted for merely promoting and protecting the best interests of their people and community.”

“The unjust imprisonment of Tibetans like Mr Tenzin Choephel is not just a travesty of justice but also part of a well-orchestrated plan to annihilate all forms of peaceful dissent against human rights abuses, political repression and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Chinese party-state,” Tsering Tsomo, executive director of TCHRD has said.

“We reiterate our call to the international community including democratic governments, the United Nations, human rights organisations, and civil society actors to pressure the Chinese government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Tenzin Choephel and all other Tibetans unjustly subjected to arbitrary detention; provide full and unfettered access to international observers to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the human rights situation in Tibet; repeal all legislation, policies and practices that enable extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and torture; and comply with obligations to protect, promote and fulfil human rights pursuant to its ratification of major human rights treaties.”

Choephel, about 45 years of age was known for his notable work on protecting Tibetan culture and environment, promoting unity among Tibetans, and other philanthropic activities such as helping the poor and needy in the community, the report added.

The Tibetan entrepreneur and philanthropist was detained by Chinese police on 30 March 2018 from Gongkar Airport in Lhasa and had been held incommunicado for more than a year before his sentencing which came to light now. 

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